J. Clayton Conroy, better known to baby boomers as TV’s Woodrow the Woodsman, was born in Jersey City, New Jersey on April 3, 1918. Conroy studied at the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts and attended the New England Conservatory of Music. Before becoming a children’s television performer he tried a variety of occupations, from loan officer and concessions operator to comic magician and water show acrobat. “I jumped off a 22 foot board playing my trombone,” Conroy recalled in a 1963 interview, “and didn’t let go when I hit the water. Still checking to see if anyone has seen an old trombone with a pair of lips attached.” While working at the Miami Beach water show, Conroy met Margret, his bride to be. During World War II Conroy served in the U.S. Nay and the Coast Guard. In 1959, he moved to Cleveland, the hometown of his new wife.
Woodrow the Woodsman was created in 1958 for KYW’s Banarby the Leprechaun. The mustachioed woodsman with the Prince Valiant haircut became so popular that in 1961 he was given his own show, The Barn-Wood Playhouse. Woodrow entertained the children of Cleveland in the Enchanted Forest, with his puppet pals Tarkington Whom III the Owl, Voracious the peanut butter and jelly sandwich eating Elephant and Frederick Maximillian Gesundheit the Alley-Croc (the world’s only half alligator/half crocodile with a German accent. The show ran until 1965, when the station was sold. Woodrow the Woodsman returned to Cleveland in 1970 and aired until 1972. Conroy spent the next 25 years modeling and doing commercials.
In 1997, a television executive who was a fan of the show convinced Conroy that the time was right for a Woodrow revival. The new show ran for another 3 years on WJW. Conroy was in excellent physical condition due to years of swimming and exercise, but poor blood circulation was becoming an issue. Conroy entered the hospital in July of 2003 and it was the daughter of Linn Sheldon, Barnaby the Leprechaun, who was the duty nurse the day Conroy passed.